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Penn State Football: Charlie Fisher Says Open Competition at Quarterback

by on February 28, 2012 6:00 AM

This is the first in a two-part series with new quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher, who assumed his role Feb. 18.

Another spring practice season is around the corner, and another season with uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position awaits.

Perhaps that isn’t the case without a new regime operating out of the Lasch Football Building these days.

But here comes Charlie Fisher, the team’s new quarterbacks coach under first-year head coach Bill O’Brien. He’s inheriting fifth-year senior Matt McGloin and junior Rob Bolden, who spent the last two seasons being jerked and twerked around, splitting starting duties.

There’s also Paul Jones, a redshirt sophomore whose academic issues have kept him off the field to this point, and incoming freshman Steven Bench, who went to high school in Georgia and who Fisher looked at when he was at Miami (Ohio).

McGloin is the odds-on favorite to start in 2012. He wrestled away the starting role for good after a 10-7 victory against Illinois and completed 54.1 percent of his passes for 1,571 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions last season.

Even so, Fisher on Saturday said the quarterback position was an open competition.


“Absolutely, absolutely,” Fisher said in a telephone interview. “We don’t want to have preconceived ideas of what these guys have or haven’t done because it really doesn’t matter. We’re moving forward with a new offensive philosophy and system and a new group of coaches, so it’s a matter of what they do moving forward.”

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Fisher, 52, is in the midst of his second week on staff, but he has some familiarity with a couple of his quarterbacks. He saw tape of McGloin coming out of high school, and Bolden attended Vanderbilt’s camp as a young prospect when Fisher served as passing game coordinator and receivers coach.

“Extremely talented, Rob Bolden, extremely talented,” Fisher said. “He’s got tools, and we gotta get him playing at the level he’s capable of playing.”

To refresh those who need reminding on the state of the Penn State quarterback, McGloin and Bolden split time throughout 2011 — maddening, at times, for many Nit fans. But McGloin took over full-time during the final month of the season until he suffered a seizure and concussion during a fight with teammate Curtis Drake in the locker room following practice Dec. 17.

It forced McGloin to miss the bowl game and thrust Bolden back into the huddle. He completed 7-of-26 passes and threw three interceptions in a 30-14 loss to Houston in the TicketCity Bowl.

In other words, it didn’t end well.

Now it appears there’s a clean slate heading into spring practice, which starts March 26.

Fisher and O’Brien will evaluate each quarterback on tape and consider how each fits in the pro-style offense O’Brien wants to run. Mental capacity is huge. McGloin said he received a quarterback manual from O’Brien soon after he was hired to better understand the nuances of playing the position well.

“It’s gonna take time, it’s not gonna happen overnight,” Fisher said. “We’re not playing tomorrow and we’re certainly not playing the day spring ball opens."

Added Fisher: “You can tell when they’re playing at a high level in that they really are comfortable with the offense. You can tell that ball is coming out, and they know what to do with it. They’re not back there holding it wondering what to do with it.”

So, what’s Fisher looking for in his starter?

“So much for me, being around the quarterback position for 30 years,” Fisher said, “there’s guys that have that unique mental makeup that can handle the pressure, can process the information, can learn the offense and are driven to learn and succeed.”

Continued Fisher: “The physical tool for me is finding that guy that’s accurate, that can get the ball out of his hands and has a release that you want and a unique ability to extend the play.

“When you play at the highest level, there’s gonna be a strong pass rush when you’re playing in the Big Ten or the SEC. You gotta have a guy that can extend it and find a way to make the play moving around and finding guys down the field.”

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Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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